Thursday, December 13, 2007

Supreme Court hears arguments in George law license hearing

Former state Sen. Gary George's law license should be suspended but not revoked for his conviction on federal charges because his offenses didn't rise to a level that deserves such a severe penalty, his attorney Richard Cayo said today.

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments today concerning the Office of Lawyer Regulation's recommendation that George's law license be revoked. The referee for OLR made the recommendation following George's federal conviction in a kickback scandal.

If his law license is revoked, George couldn't apply for re-instatement for at least five years.

Cayo and George's other attorney, Mark Hazelbaker, also focused on his long public service and compared his case to former lawmakers Chuck Chvala and Brian Burke - both of whom had their licenses suspended for two years following their felony convictions in the so-called "caucus scandal."

State Bar President Tom Basting, who was retained by OLR, focused on George's plea, in which he admitted to taking money from a lawyer but not providing any legal work.

"That when a public official ... falls from the top, the consequences of the injury to that person are almost always much more severe than when someone slips from a lower level," Basting said.

Cayo said George hasn't begun to pay restitution totaling more than $500,000 to the state of Wisconsin as he awaits the outcome of Scott Jensen's case.

He said the two men faced similar allegations about using state employees for political work, and the results of Jensen's case could be used in a motion seeking to lower George's restitution.

In a brief interview following the hearing, George said he doesn't know when the court will hand down its ruling and wouldn't speculate how long he believes the suspension should last.

"I'm appreciative of the chance to have my case heard before the court," George said.

Justices Louis Butler and David Prosser didn't participate in the hearing.

Listen to the oral arguments:


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